Australia’s biggest listed honey company and some major supermarket chains face accusations of selling fake honey, with Beechworth Honey’s Jodie Goldsworthy saying it’s time to speak up about honey frauds.
Testing at a leading lab that specialises in honey fraud detection found almost half the samples selected from supermarket shelves was “adulterated”.
Experts say adulterated honey was generally bulked up with rice syrup and beet syrup and other substances, which aren’t detected by official honey tests.
Capilano’s Allowrie branded Mixed Blossom Honey, markets itself as 100 per cent honey, showed up as “adulterated” in the majority of samples tested.
Capilano strongly denied any issues with its products and criticised the type of test – known as Nuclear Magnetic Resonance – used to detect the impurities, pointing out it differed from the official Australian test.
Using the NMR testing the results showed that 12 of the 28 samples tested, were not 100 per cent pure honey.
Four of the six IGA Black and Gold private label registered as adulterated, two of six ALDI Bramwell’s private label brands failed the NMR test and six out of eight of Capilano’s Allowrie budget branded bottles had adulterated honey when NMR screening was used.
The same 28 samples were then tested using the official Australian test, C4, and all passed. There is no suggestion that ASX-listed Capilano’s eponymous brand of Australian sourced honey has any issue.
IGA said "All Black & Gold honey is sourced from a well known Australian-owned producer, and it meets the requirements of the Australian and New Zealand Food Standards Code. Production of the product is under the direct control of the Australian supplier."
ALDI has already moved to pull an affected product from its shelves as a precaution. ALDI said they would investigate the claims and if the investigations conclude that the product has been adulterated, it would permanently be removed from sale at ALDI and further actions would be taken with the supplier.
Until 2004, honey imports were banned from Australia, but severe drought conditions helped convince the government to open up the market and test about 5 per cent of imported honey consignments under Imported Food Inspection Scheme, using the official C4 test.
Beechworth Honey uses only Australian honey, with managing director Mrs Goldsworthy saying in 2004 when the company – and the industry – was in short supply of honey due to the millennium drought, she considered importing honey.
“We looked at each other and said if we’re to import this honey we wouldn’t eat it on our breakfast table, so that for us meant importing honey was not a decision that was right for us,” she said.
It was an expensive decision. The shortage of honey meant they couldn’t supply the products, which effectively cut the business in half.
But in the long run it paid off, and built credibility.
During the 2014 drought Beechworth again voluntarily deleted half its products from supermarkets to maintain 100 per cent Australian honey supply. Mrs Goldsworthy said beekeepers had been silent about the problem of adulterated honey, for fear of hurting the industry’s reputation.
“The silence has made it really easy for the frauds to go on unhindered. It’s time to speak up before it’s too late.”
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